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Our top 10 wildlife sightings in February

Please join your local wildlife trust today

Please join your local wildlife trust today

Please join your local wildlife trust today

Posted: Monday 29th January 2018 by bbowtblog

Great crested grebes and hazel flowers by Margaret Holland. Frog spawn by Wendy Tobitt

From courting birds and spring flowers to early frog spawn there’s plenty to look out for this month. Will you spot all 10 on our list?

1 Drumming great spotted woodpeckers

Listen out for great spotted woodpeckers drumming on trees to announce their presence in the woods. Did you know their sharp bill is powered by strong neck muscles and their brain is protected from all the drumming by a special type of bone that absorbs the stress.

Male great spotted woodpeckers have red feathers at the nape of their necks while females have no red on their heads at all.  

2 Singing woodlarks

Listen out for the melodious song of the woodlark, a cousin of the skylark. Woodlarks are one of the earliest birds in the year to start singing in Britain and their song is said by some to be one of the finest you’ll hear. Listen for them singing away on lowland heathland, such as Greenham Common.

3 Grey herons and heronries

Grey herons build their large nests in trees by rivers or lakes. You’ll often see many nests in the same tree and these groups of nests are known as heronries. Look out for male herons putting on a courtship dance to attract a female. The male will stretch his long neck upwards and then lower is over his back with the bill pointing upwards.

4 Great crested grebes

Great crested grebes also have an elaborate courtship dance. Watch as the males and females mirror each other on the water, diving down and rising up in perfect unison. Great crested grebes were once very endangered in the UK. Historically they were hunted for their soft feathers, which were used a substitute for fur, and elaborate head feathers that decorated women’s hats.

5 Short-eared owl

short-eared owl

Unlike many species of owl, you may see short-eared owls hunting during the day as well as at dusk. In the winter our resident birds are joined by more from the continent. Look out for them hunting small mammals, and occasionally small birds, over wetlands and marshy grassland. They have piercing yellow eyes and streaky feathers that camouflage them well against the grassland. Their 'ears' are actually tufts of feathers.

6 Common toads

Toads breed later in the spring than frogs but this month you should see them start to return to their breeding areas. Once toads do breed look for long strands of toad spawn in ponds compared with the large masses of spawn that frogs produce.

7 Frog spawn

Frogs breed before toads and you may see great jelly masses of early frog spawn in ponds in February. If you have a pond in your garden, don’t introduce frog spawn from elsewhere, wait until frogs find your pond and create their own.

8 Hazel flowers

Hazel produces female flowers and male catkins at this time of year. The tiny flowers are bright pink. Take a close look and be amazed by this minute flower waiting to catch pollen released by the catkins.

9 Catkins

Hazel catkins hang like little (lamb’s!) tails from bare branches, wafting pollen in the breeze. Hazel isn’t the only plant that produces catkins but is one of the earliest. Other trees that produce catkins include willow species and alder.

10 Lesser celandine

Lesser celandine by Kate Dent

These pretty plants, with yellow, star-shaped flowers and heart-shaped leaves, bloom in woodland and along hedgerows. Along with other spring flowers they are an important source of nectar and pollen for insects.

Things to do

  • See which of our nature reserves are at their best this season.
  • Find a nature reserve near you with the Wildilfe Trusts' Nature Finder app for iphone and Android
  • Share your photos of our reserves with us on Twitter and Facebook or upload them to our Flickr gallery
  • Oxfordshire photographer Andrew Marshall's book Photographing wildlife in the UK (published by Fotovue) includes advice on how to take great wildlife photographs. The book includes top locations for photographing wildlife and some images that were taken on BBOWT nature reserves (Greenham Common, Chimney Meadows, Foxholes and College Lake).
  • Sign up to our e-newsletter and stay up-to-date with our news about local wildlife
  • Our experts work with over 1,400 volunteers to look after over 80 nature reserves, four education centres and run hundreds of amazing events. We rely on the generosity of individuals, charitable trusts and businesses. Help us look after these precious places for your local wildlife by donating today.

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